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Call renewed for investigation into Canyons school district

Published: Tuesday, April 17 2012 11:02 p.m. MDT

Kelly Ballard speaks in support of the school board. Residents voice their opinions Tuesday, April 17, 2012, during a Canyons School Board meeting where some are requesting an investigation of Superintendent Dr. David S. Doty.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SANDY — Trenton Goble told members of the Canyons Board of Education Tuesday that while under employment by the district he lived in fear of retribution for the better part of two years.

Goble, who formerly served as executive director of student achievement and as principal of Oak Hollow Elementary, said that he had no forum to voice his concerns about district management and was pressured into silence.

"I had no voice," he said. "I had no opportunity."

Goble was the first public speaker before a standing-room only crowd at Tuesday's Canyons District board meeting that raised both criticisms and support for district Superintendent David Doty and the members of the board.

Board President Tracy Cowdell began the public comment segment of the meeting by detailing rules against making personal attacks against individuals. He was then followed by a statement read by board member Paul McCarty, which leveled a personal attack on KSL-TV, which last week broadcast a report detailing the criticism of both current and former employees of the district against Doty.

Those criticisms continued Tuesday night, as did a plea by some to consider a petition presented by Chad Iverson, a candidate running for election to the board, that calls for an independent investigation into the allegations of unprofessional conduct by Doty, and for an anonymous survey of district employees. Iverson presented the petition, which had gathered more than 800 signatures, Tuesday night, saying it was on behalf of 33,000 Canyons students who are taught that bullying is unacceptable.

Courtney Hansen, a teacher at Midvale Middle School, spoke in favor of conducting a survey in which employees could feel safe expressing concerns.

"Having a survey that could be anonymous could be helpful," she said.

Other speakers were more direct in their criticisms. Joanne Andrus said that communication between employees and administrators had deteriorated since the district was created in 2009.

"The open dialogue promised at the beginning is long gone," Andrus said. "That atmosphere of sycophancy and intimidation has taken its place."

Other speakers, however, dismissed the criticisms and allegations against Doty as mere resistance to change. Sunrise Elementary principal Frank Schofield opposed the terms of the petition and said disagreements naturally occur in the decision-making process.

"Those disagreements are not sufficient criteria to mount an investigation into an employee," he said.

Scott McDonald similarly spoke against the allegations of Doty's managerial style.

"In the process of building a world-class school district, we're going to ruffle some feathers," he said.

Multiple speakers, however, spoke to the seriousness of the allegations against Doty and said the public would be best served by an investigation into the claims.

"The issue that concerns me is about professional conduct," Michael Addair said.

The issue came to light last week after a KSL-TV report raised allegations of intimidation tactics by the top management of Canyons School District.

Doty is accused of inappropriately reprimanding district employees for insubordination and threatening employment to ensure silence. Repeated interview requests to both Doty and board president Tracy Cowdell have not been returned.

After Tuesday's meeting, the Deseret News approached two members of the board, Kevin Cromar and Mont Millerberg, to ask if they would support an anonymous survey of district employees. Cromar said he was not able to comment and Millerberg restated the board's support of Doty before refusing to answer.

After reading the board's statement of support for Doty, Cowdell said it represented the view of a majority of board members. Cromar also said after the meeting that the statement received a majority, but not necessarily unanimous, vote of support by the board.

Cromar raised similar complaints of intimidation among district officials during a September school board meeting, in which he was publicly censured for speaking individually with district employees.

"I have not done anything except to seek to improve the school district. In doing that, I have sought input from educators and administrators," he said at the meeting. "I am deeply concerned about efforts of intimidation against both me and administrators at the schools," he said at the time.

Doty's appointment as superintendent coincided with the creation of Canyons School District, which split from Jordan School District in 2009.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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